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June 29, 2016

By Luminary Marie-Julie Côté

Most of my yoga clients are office workers, which means a typical day for them goes something like this; they start their morning by sitting down for breakfast, then sitting on the bus or in their cars commuting to work, sitting in front of a computer in the morning, sitting to eat lunch, sitting again at the workstation for the afternoon until the the clock strikes 5pm and they are released from their shackles. On the commute home they sit back on the bus or in their cars, sit again to eat dinner, and sit to watch TV on the couch until it’s time to head to bed.

Needless to say this looks like many people's average work day.  Here are 5 ways you can conquer the ‘sitting disease’ and add movement in your workday:
  1. Take small walking breaks throughout the day where you take a few laps around the office. If it’s nice outside getting some fresh air never hurt.
  2. Get a group of coworkers together to do a lunch time yoga or gym sesh. It a great way to get to know the people you work with and create community in the office.
  3. If you live close enough to work, bike or walk instead of drive. Not only will you be doing yourself a favor the environment will thank you as well.
  4. Do leg lifts under your desk. Lift your leg until it’s parallel with the floor and hold there for a few moments. This will build muscle as well as encourage blood flow.
  5. Stand up to take a phone call or simply stretch your muscle out.  Doing a few quick jumping jack can elevate your heart and also stop that mid afternoon tired spell.

Dr. Chris Raynor, a local Ottawa-Gatineau orthopedic surgeon and personal trainer, estimates that sitting takes up on average 15.5 hours per day. In addition, he adds a 30-minute exercise period and eight hours of sleep to make up a 24 hour day. Which in retrospect isn’t a lot of movement for the amount of sitting being done.

As a society today, we are spending far too much time motionless. Waistlines of the young and the old are expanding at a rapid pace, and we are seeing an increase of obesity in very young children. By comparison to the lifestyles of past generations, researchers made an eye-opening discovery. Studies have shown a link between sitting time and chronic diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and cardiovascular disease. The risk and instances of physical disease increase with age however; sitting time also increases with age which makes this rising problem a double edged sword.

Think about it; in the era of our grandparents and great-grandparents most people worked on their feet, (not in an office) and moved all day long. What has changed? The answer is technology.  Everything in our modern life comes from a need to do less, make our lives easier  with less effort, and to do it faster than ever before. Meaning moving less and sitting more, and here is where the “sitting disease” comes in.

Those who sit throughout their day have a higher possibility of blood glucose and insulin levels sitting their bloodstream, compared to people who exercise and move throughout their day. Glycemia, caused by high blood glucose, is associated with a number of problems such as damaged organs, fatigue, excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and poor wound healing. None of the organs in the body function properly with high sugar levels. Insulin is the hormone that tells our bodies where to put  sugar and how to use it effectively, so it doesn’t just sit around wreaking havoc on your body.

“If you have a high blood glucose level you need a lot of insulin in order to deal with it,” says Dr Raynor. “High insulin levels lead to diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and weight gain.”

Hour upon hour spent planted on your tush means your body tissues, organs and metabolism are not working properly and are not engaged the way the were designed.

The longer you sit, the less efficiently your body’s systems run.  

Dr Mark Tremblay, the Director of The Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa says “ When you’re not moving enough your heart, lungs and muscles go into hibernation mode and they waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells called atrophy and over time they can decay. The metabolism of fats and glucose gets disrupted, and you’re not burning many calories.”

In addition, the Lymphatic system won’t circulate properly, digestion process is restricted,the pancreas cannot process efficiently, insulin isn’t used effectively and instead of being absorbed by your body, glucose builds up in your blood and cholesterol increases. All of these poor functions can lead to type 2 diabetes, and a slew of other problems like heart attacks or strokes. And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning these possible consequences; obesity, inflammation, water retention, and increased weight gain particularly around your internal organs.

Staying stationary can also have a detrimental effect on our spinal column and our lungs. The rib cage and thorax can compress and we are less able to expand our lungs and take in oxygen. If our brain isn’t getting enough oxygen it can’t function as efficiently, which is  one of the reason you feel tired. A sedentary lifestyle creates poor posture, curvature in the spine and protruding discs in the neck and back.

How can we gain more movement in our day?

I just love this quote from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia: “Stand up, sit less, move more, more often”. Stand up in your office to talk on the phone, do squats watching tv, walk to the printer (pick the one at the opposite end of your floor), stay hydrated, it won’t hurt that you’ll have to walk to the bathroom more, change  your posture, don’t sit too long, don’t stand too long, alternate your crossed leg (if you imperatively cross your leg while sitting), move your hips, your extremities, use the stairs, and stretch often.

So what about a standing workstation?

I have one at work and I love it, but I still have a chair. Replacing sitting with standing is only marginally better for your health as you’re still in one position if you stand to work.  It’s much better to change your position throughout the day as much as you can. If you can alternate your workstation between standing and sitting your on your way to improving the problems associated with extensive sitting.

So to my yoga teachers, yogis, and yoginis who also find themselves at stationary jobs in their daily life, remember the more you move the better your body will feel and ultimately perform.  We have the ability to ward off disease and illness and it all starts with movement.  We can fight the sitting disease and WIN!

Love, Live, Light

Marie-Julie xox


Credit Dr. Chris Raynor’s interview

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